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Date:

January 29, 2001

Subject:

Alternative Davos; Vandana Beaten?; Trusting Right

 

An Internet site with an emphasis on teaching and learning, and one that
indexes and rates science sites of help to high school and college
students with links:

http://www.studyweb.com/

The agriculture biotechnology section of this site
http://www.studyweb.com/Science/ag_toc.htm has extensive links to hundreds
of sites related to genetically modified crops with sections on Crops,
Hazards, Benefits, & Ethics, General Resources, Genome Databases & Maps,
and Livestock. You will also find every conceivable topic in agriculture
and all other branches of science. I found many sites posting useful
information on teaching agricultural biotechnology, downloadable slides
for presentation and some with very creative ideas. I recommend a
'bookmark' for this site.

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From: Tom DeGregori
Subject: 'Alternative Davos' - no blacks and only one woman on the
organising committee

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/business/newsid_1142000/1142036.stm

Note the following statement below: "The organisers of the World Social
Forum admitted that there were no blacks and only one woman on the
organising committee and promised to review this." Yet those organizing
this and other events claim to speak for the world's poor. The poor
desperately need help in making their voices and concerns heard but it is
unlikely that these self-appointed spokespersons - an assortment of
Luddites and primarily PR NGOs who do little if anything in the field but
do raise money in developed countries to carry on their activities of
raising more money - even remotely understand the needs of those less
fortunate than they are. Pardon my cynicism but I have had too much
interaction with these groups and observed what they advocate so that I
cannot take them seriously. TRD

http://news.bbc.co.uk/

BBC:Monday, 29 January, 2001, 01:28 GMT 'Alternative Davos' to be annual

The forum recognised the importance of protests: By Tom Gibb in Brazil
Organisers of the World Social Forum being attended by about 10,000
activists in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre say they plan to
make it an annual event to rival the World Economic Forum in Davos. The
Brazilian forum has been looking at ways of fighting the trend towards
free trade and globalisation in the world, but has not been free from its
own protests. Forum protesters ripped up plants at a Monsanto GM farm A
press conference by the World Social Forum organisers was invaded by a
member of one of the groups attending. The protester from the United Black
Movement shouted slogans demanding greater participation for blacks and
complained that they had only had one hour in five days of conferences to
express their views, even though they represent 50% of Brazil's population.

Finding its feet The organisers of the World Social Forum admitted that
there were no blacks and only one woman on the organising committee and
promised to review this. Though they are hoping that the forum will become
a permanent institution, no date or venue for next year has been set,
although it will almost certainly be held to coincide with the World
Economic Forum in Davos. Despite the bewildering array of diverse
interests and protest groups at the forum in Brazil, there is a real sense
of a movement trying to find its feet.

Lobbying the powerful The theme which ties the forum together is fear that
the power of multinational corporations is undermining democratic
institutions around the world. The forum wants to become a body that can
lobby those with power in the world economy with proposals such as: the
cancellation of Third World debt; taxing international flows of capital ;
including labour and social conditions in trade pacts. But almost everyone
at the forum also thinks their aims will only be achieved by disrupting
future international trade summits with street protests.

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The Independent Media Center Reports:

Vandana Shiva Beaten By Police in Davos 2:30 27. January 2001
The Public Eye on Davos conference participants, including Vandana Shiva -
environmental and human rights activist from India - came out to join the
street protest and were attacked by police. Vandana Shiva, who attempted
to climb over a police barrier, was
grabbed and beaten with a baton. Vandana subsequently held a press
briefing.

http://www.davos.indymedia.org/index.php3?lang=en
==============

From: Craig Sams

In rebutting Andura Smetacek's list of alleged E.coli O157:H7 incidents I
incorrectly stated that the Tesco mushrooms were not organic and that the
contamination was not E.coli O157:H7. I have now checked the Public Health
Laboratory Service website ttp://www.phls.co.uk/publications/index.htm and
found that the incident was the result of cross contamination in their
laboratory.
- Craig Sams

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From: piero.morandini@unimi.it (Piero Morandini)
Subject: Whom you trust? A question to Mr. Sams

Dear Mr. Sams, I am very surprised that you trust people on some matters
when they do not show qualifications to judge such matters. Antoniou and
Steinbrecher might be good molecular biologists, but how could they assert
"that there is a world of difference" between conventional breeding (which
is not "natural" at all, if one accepts the popular concept of natural as
something that happens spontaneously) and gene splicing? A quick survey of
a publication database (see for instance
http://www4.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/) shows that neither of the two has
ever contributed anything to plant breeding nor to plant biology (there is
a paper from a Steinbrecher R. working in Germany on terpene synthesis in
pine, but I suspect it is another person) Most of the people who support
gene splicing technology as being not more dangerous than conventional
techniques have contributed either to plant breeding or to plant Biology.
Just as an example take F. Salamini (head of dept. at the MPI in Koeln)
who, according to Medline, published around 90 papers pertaining to plant
biology/breeding. He says GM plants are at least as safe as the
conventional varieties (and he has been developing conventional varieties)
AND present, in specific cases, advantages over conventional ones. Whose
judgement is more qualified?

Plant breeders have embraced the new techniques enthusiastically. If we
trust these people when they breed organic or conventional crops, why
should they be not trustworthy it they make transgenic varieties?

Best regards,

Piero Morandini (Univ. of Milan, Biology dept.)

>I am not qualified to discuss whether gene splicing is the same as
> natural >breeding. I bow the judgment of two molecular biologists,
> Dr. Michael >Antoniou of Guy's Hospital in London and Dr. Ricarda
> Steinbrecher, who......
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From: Malcolm Livingstone
Subject: Craig Sams
Dear Craig,

Well I'm glad you have been able to dig up two scientists who think that
gene splicing is fundamentally different from naturally occurring events
because it must not have been easy. Science has dissenters. In fact it
wouldn't operate without them. However dissent does not equal truth. How
can we gauge the probability that a particular scientific opinion is the
correct one? Well I suggest we look at the numbers of those in dissent
compared to the total number of scientists qualified to make judgement on
this issue. Leaving aside the fact that many scientists opposed to genetic
engineering are not, in fact, molecular biologists (many are phycicists)
the total in favour far exceeds all those opposed. Three thousand
molecular biologists have signed Prakash's petition including Norman
Borlaug and James Watson. Others have supported it such as Richard
Dawkins. The American Medical Association, The British Medical
Association, The American Society of Microbiologists, The National
Academies of Science of at least seven countries (including the American
and British) and numerous others have all stated their confidence in this
technology. At a rough guess I'd say one million scientists or so. If we
lump all the dissenters together we might get a 1000. So the odds are
about 1:1000 in favour. If you had an accused man on trial for murder and
a jury of 1000 peers found him innocent by a margin of 999 to 1 you would
be a brave person to advocate execution or life imprisonment.

Some time ago Angela Ryan (14/11/00) sent in a piece on molecular biology
supposedly supporting Mae Wan Ho's opinions on the dangers of genetic
engineering. In fact it completely does the opposite. I'm completely
baffled how they think it supports their point of view but I would
recommend you read it anyway.

Anyway Craig time will tell, although I not sure how many decades of
non-events it will take to convince you (we've already had a couple).

Malcolm Livingstone

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From: "Shane Morris"
Subject: New Irish Biotech paper

IRISH PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TO MODERN BIOTECHNOLOGY: AN
OVERVIEW WITH A FOCUS ON GM FOODS January 29, 2001 Trends in
Biotechnology, 2001, 19:2:43-48 Shane H. Morris and Catherine C. Adley

This article summarizes the current situation pertaining to modern
biotechnology in Ireland, with a particular focus on genetically modified
(GM) crops. It briefly examines some important results of the major
national surveys carried out in Ireland since 1989, highlights the recent
upsurge in media (newspaper) coverage of GM related stories in three Irish
opinion leader publications and it allows for an insight into the Irish
public's relationship with modern biotechnology.

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From: "Henry I. Miller"
Subject: Response to Jacobson's WSJ Article

To the Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

It should come as no surprise that there is less to long-time technophobe
Michael Jacobson's "support" for biotechnology ("Consumer Groups Shouldn't
Reject Biotech," 25 January) than meets the eye. While Jacobson
acknowledges that biotech crops "have begun to yield major benefits" such
as "reduced insecticide usage, . . . higher profits for farmers," and the
rescue of the virus-threatened Hawaiian papaya industry, his idea of
"regulatory improvements" -- yet more stringent regulation -- would
further inhibit the application of biotech to food and agriculture.

Jacobson alleges that the National Academy of Sciences and others have
found "significant gaps" in EPA's oversight. On the contrary, what they
have found repeatedly is a regulatory approach devoid of scientific and
common sense -- that the EPA holds the new technology to an inappropriate
standard, requiring hugely expensive testing of gene-spliced crop and
garden plants, such as corn, cotton and tomatoes, as though they were
chemical pesticides. EPA's policy galvanized the scientific community,
which has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned the agency's approach.
Eleven major scientific societies representing more than 80,000 biologists
and food professionals have warned that the EPA policy discourages the
development of new pest-resistant crops, prolongs and increases the use of
synthetic chemical pesticides, increases the regulatory burden for
developers of pest-resistant crops, expands federal and state bureaucracy,
limits the use of biotechnology to larger developers who can pay the
inflated regulatory costs, and handicaps the United States in competition
for international markets.

Jacobson praises the FDA decision last year to make mandatory its
"voluntary consultation procedure" for biotech foods, which flouts the
scientific consensus articulated by the Institute of Food Technologists
that the evaluation of biotech food "does not require a fundamental change
in established principles of food safety; nor does it require a different
standard of safety, even though, in fact, more information and a higher
standard of safety are being required."

This deterioration in domestic regulatory policy has already had negative
ripple effects. The adoption by the FDA of a scientifically indefensible
policy has constrained the agency which often leads US delegations to
negotiations on food standards and safety from pushing the scientific
line in international forums. Last year, for example, at meetings of the
Codex Alimentarius Commission (the UN's food standard-setting
organization) to hammer out standards for biotech foods, for the first
time the FDA-led US delegation fell docilely into line behind the
relentlessly anti-biotech European Commission. Consequently, several Codex
task forces are now en route to codifying various procedures and
requirements more appropriate to potentially dangerous prescription drugs
or pesticides than to gene-spliced corn and strawberries. (The prospect of
unscientific, overly burdensome Codex standards biotech foods is ominous,
because members of the WTO will, in principle, be required to follow them,
and they will provide cover for unfair trade practices.) . Food
production has low profit margins and cannot easily absorb the costs of
gratuitous regulation, which Jacobson would increase further under the
rubric of "sensible reform." The overregulation of biotech foods prevents
its wide application to food production, deprives farmers of important
tools for raising productivity, and denies to food manufacturers and
consumers greater choice among improved, innovative products.

Henry I. Miller, MD Hoover Institution Stanford University
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From: Graeme O'Neill

Dear Prakash,

I seem to recall from one of your postings several months ago that you
would not eat a GM vegetable, say a potato, that contained a beef protein.
I take it that this objection would be on the basis of the Hindu reverence
for cows - please accept my apology if my memory is in error, or my
premise is incorrect.

It interested me because my son, who holds no religious beliefs, but has a
moral objection to the slaughter of all animals - mammal, bird, fish,
crustacean, shellfish - and has not eaten animal flesh in any form for
more than 15 years, yet says he would have no moral objection to eating
potatoes modified with an animal protein gene.

I hope you will not be offended if I observe that your religious objection
to eating a beef protein as part of a vegetable has much in common with
objections by some anti-GM activists to transferring animal genes to
vegetables, because it "crosses species barriers". This objection seems to
emanate from a mystical, quasi-religious view of nature-as-designer,
something that Richard Dawkins has refuted by reference to neo-Darwinian
theory, which does not allow for "design".

It seems to me that inserting animal genes into vegetables is a very
likely development in gene technology, given the scarcity of animal
protein in poorer nations, and the likelihood that many Western consumers
will eventually accept that it less wasteful and more ecologicaly
sustainable to eat plants than animals.

As science reporter for the Melbourne Age in 1989, I covered a story in
which an Australian company, Metro Meats, sold several dozen pigs carrying
a non-functional porcine growth hormone gene (the transfer failed) to
butchers in Adelaide, without disclosing their origin. The company did it
to recoup some of the costs, rather than slaughter and bury the pigs. The
pig gene had been modified with a well-characterised promoter from the
human growth hormone gene, and anti-GM activists objected because this
somehow made the pigmeat "slightly human", even though the company said no
consumer had been imperilled, and that it was silly to claim the pigs
contained a human gene - all is just DNA code.

I would welcome your views on this issue - I take it that you would regard
a cow gene as part of a cow, and avoid eating it on that basis. But what
if the gene's amino acid sequence were modified so that it was subtly
different from the original? Would you still regard it as a cow gene?

Regards

Graeme O'Neill
------
Dear Graeme:

I thank you for your email. My vegetarianism is not based on any ethical
or religious beliefs but simply due to the fact that I was brought up in
such a family. I have two kids who live on a diet of MacDonalds Hamburger,
and thus have no problem with meat eating. My vegetarianism is a cultural
habit that one acquires when you are young and it is no different from
Westerners not eating dogs, termites or lizards which are delicacies in
certain cultures.

However, I personally have no problem in eating a food containing an
animal gene because as a scientist I recognize the large similarity of
nucleotide sequences among genes from animals and plants. But, I do not
advocate this primarily because at this moment, we do not need additional
problems for biotech and it would also be a bad business practice. Just
imagine, how would the U.S. soy or corn export situation would be like now
to the Middle East, if we had pig gene in them? The public perception runs
against putting animal genes in plants and we need to very cognizant of
it. Read the Financial Times piece about Monsanto's mistakes at the end of
this posting. Monsanto has publicly announced that they would not be
putting any animal genes into their crops. Although there is not single a
food product out there now with animal genes introduced into
crops,activists are scaring the public with outrageous lies about this
issue.

A few years from now, the whole argument may be moot because of the change
in public perception about this issue and as also, as I mentioned earlier
the genomic advances may obviate the need for such transfers.

best wishes,.......Prakash

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From: Rick Roush
Subject: Mae-Wan Ho

Dear All: Perhaps only Mae-Wan Ho could turn a book review into a personal
statement, but I find that there are usually two sides to every story.
Does anyone know the views of the Open University on the claims made here?
- Rick
---------------
The Corporate Take over of Science

Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain by George Monbiot,
MacMillan, London, 2000. Review by Mae-Wan Ho. ISIS Book Brief 26 Jan. 2001

The corporate take over is here and threatening the foundations of
democratic government. That is the message of George Monbiot's explosive
and important book Corporations have seized control of our hospitals,
schools and universities. They have infiltrated the government and come to
dominate government ministries, buying and selling planning permission,
dispensing our tax money to research and development that benefit
industry, taking over the food chain. To top it all, the British
Government has colluded in ceding its power to international institutions
controlled by corporations, such as the World Trade Organization, the
World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Anyone who is under the
delusion that corrupt or corrupted governments are only in the Third World
has better think again.

The chapter on corporate takeover of universities is too close to home. I
have been on the permanent academic staff of the Open University since
1976, but was strongly encouraged to take early retirement last June as I
became more and more involved in the genetic engineering debate.

In the course of the genetic engineering debate, I had begun to realise
that the corporate takeover of science was the greatest threat to
democracy and to the survival of our planet [1]. That was why I co-founded
the not-for-profit Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) to work for
social responsibility and sustainable approaches in science and the
integration of science in society. As part of the agreement for my
retirement, I was to be given an honorary secondment, so I could continue
running ISIS from the University, while making it clear it was independent
from the University. The situation soon began to rapidly deteriorate,
however.

In August, less than two months after my retirement, my research assistant
and I were both officially banned from the University campus. Huntingdon
Life Sciences (HLS) alleged in a letter and phone-call to my head of
Department that I was in possession of certain internal papers belonging
to them. Huntingdon Life Sciences is a privately-owned laboratory, at the
time doing contract research for the biotech companies, among them
Imutran, a subsidiary of the corporate-giant Novartis.

The University made no attempt to communicate with me or with my assistant
before imposing the ban. Had they done so, they would have found that HLS'
accusation was false. I was sent some papers by a group campaigning for
animal welfare, who were helping me obtain published scientific papers on
cross-species organ transplant - the experiments being carried out in HLS
for Imutran - so that ISIS could prepare a scientific critique, which we
did [2]. The internal papers were never used and have been destroyed
since, as I judged that there was enough in the scientific literature to
damn the whole project on safety and moral grounds.

But the chief of HLS, Brian Cass, tried to intimidate me, in phone calls,
and in an e-mail, to get me to reveal the identity of the campaigning
group. I refused to do so. When I went on campus to prepare my reply to
the ban, the Sub-Dean of Science came into my office and threatened to
have me removed physically with the security guard. After days on the
telephone to my Union representative, the Dean of Science agreed to see
me. Months later, the ban was lifted for myself, but my for my assistant;
the University denied that she had, in fact, been given an honorary
research fellowship a year earlier. I was further barred from using
University facilities for ISIS.

The animal welfare group, Uncaged Campaigns, has gone public since with a
150 page report leaked to the press, documenting excessive suffering of
animals at HLS, and Imutran's exaggeration of the success of the pig to
primate organ transplant research. Imutran has brought an injunction
against Uncaged Campaigns to prevent the release of the report. But just
four days after the news broke, Novartis announced the closure of Imutran,
and the removal of the research to the United States. Nevertheless,
Novartis has pursued the case against Uncaged Campaigns to full trial and
won. Since then there has been a plethora of prominent articles in the
mainstream press condemning animal rights activists and defending
Huntingdon Life Sciences.

George Monbiot gives many more examples of similar treatments the
University administrations mete out to academics daring to dissent from
the corporate agenda or to criticise it. The Centre for Human Ecology,
started by distinguished evolutionist and geneticist C.H. Waddington more
than 30 years ago, was hounded out of Edinburgh University in 1996,
essentially for raising questions in both the scientific and popular press
about the Conservative Government's science policies. Academic and
government scientists are all too often asked to falsify data in order not
to offend corporate funders.

"Today, there is scarcely a science faculty in the United Kingdom whose
academic freedom has not been compromised by its funding arrangements.
Contact between government-funded researchers and industry, having once
been discouraged, is now, in many departments, effectively compulsory..our
universities have been offered for sale, with the result that objectivity
and intellectual honesty are becoming surplus to requirements."

The sell-out began under the Conservative Government, and with science
research funding which effectively controls what kinds of science would be
done. The 1993 white paper on science called Realizing our Potential,
intended to "produce a better match between publicly funded strategic
research and the needs of industry". The research councils, which
distribute most of the public money for science would be obliged to
develop "more extensive and deeper links" with industry. They would be
required "to recruit more of their senior staff from industry".

The Labour government extended those reforms enthusiastically. Its 1998
white paper on competitiveness launched a 'reach-out' fund to encourage
universities to "work more effectively with business". The role of the
higher education funding councils, which provide the core money for
universities, was redefined " to ensure that higher education is
responsive to the needs of business and industry".

Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Biotechnology and Biological
Sciences Research council (BBSRC), the main funding body for Britain's
academic biologists with an annual budget of =A3190m, is chaired by Peter
Doyle, an executive director of the biotech corporation, Zeneca. Among the
members of its council are the Chief Executive of the pharmaceutical firm
Chiroscience, the former Director of Research and Development of the food
company Nestle; the President of the Food and Drink Federation; the
general manager of Britain's biggest farming business and a consultant to
the biochemical industry. The BBSRC's strategy board contains executives
from SmithKline Beecham, Merck Sharpe and Dohme and Agrevo UK (now
subsidiary of Aventis, the company responsible for getting the Department
of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) to support the
controversial 'farmscale' field trials with =A33 million of taxpayer's
money). The Council has seven specialist committees, each overseeing the
funding of different branches of biology. Employees of Zeneca sit on all
of them.

The BBSRC was established in 1994 to replace the biological program
previously run by the Science and Engineering Research Council (SERC).
Whereas SERC's mandate was to advance science of all kinds. The BBSRC's
purpose is "to sustain a broad base of interdisciplinary research and
training to help industry, commerce and Government create wealth".

The BBSRC's press release falls into three categories: news about the
research grants it allocates, news about the findings resulting from those
grants, and fierce attacks on critics of genetic engineering. Arpad
Pusztai' s publication in The Lancet was condemned as "irresponsible".
When Friends of the Earth released the results of research showing that GM
oilseed rape pollen was being carried four and a half kilometres (well
beyond the legal 'isolation distances'), the BBSRC issued a statement that
the finding was "a distraction from the key issues".

Gene biotechnology research is swallowing up the lion's share of the
research funds. In January 1999, the BBSRC set aside =A315m for "a new
initiative to help British researchers win the race to identify the
function of key genes". In July the same year, =A319m was to be spent on
new research facilities to "underpin the economic and environmental
sustainability of agriculture in the UK" through "work on genetically
modified crops". In October, =A311m were allocated to projects that would
enable the UK "to remain internationally competitive in the deveopment of
gene-based technologies". Every year, the Council gives more than =A310m
in grants to John Innes Centre in Norwich, the genetic engineering
institute which houses the Sainsbury Laboratory and has a research
alliance with Zeneca and Dupont.

The BBSRC also funds the secondment of academics into corporations to
"influence basic research relevant to company objectives". The Council
launched a Biotechnology Young Entrepreneurs Scheme, "aimed at encouraging
a more entrepreneurial attitude in bioscientists". It has paid for
researcher to work for Nestle, Unilever, Glaxo Wellcome, SmithKline
Beecham, AgrEvo, Dupont, Rhone Poulenc and Zeneca.

Most telling of all, scientists working in university departments
receiving BBSRC grants are formally gagged to prevent them becoming
"involved in political controversy in matters affecting research in
biotechnology and biological sciences". In practice, however, scientists
can hype biotechnology to their heart's content. The gagging is strictly
aimed at critics. The same pattern of corporate takeover is repeated in
the other research councils, the Natural Environment Research Council
(NERC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

I recently visited the MRC website and found that an extra =A31.9 billion
is to be committed to "health genomics research" over the next five years
[3]. That is in addition to the Government's projected spending of 3675m
pounds on university infrastructure through the Science Research
Investment Fund, which includes high tech facilities for studying genes
and proteins.

A number of the MRC proposals are controversial to say the least (see "MRC
proposes human experiments in GM foods", and "UK population DNA database
to be established" ISIS press releases www.i-sis.org/press.shtml George
has confirmed what many people already suspect and experienced in their
personal struggles for freedom and democracy in different spheres of life.
What can we do in the face of the ever-increasing consolidation of
corporate control? Monbiot has only one answer: don't despair, fight on!

"The struggle between people and corporations will be the defining battle
of the twenty-first century. If the corporations win, liberal democracy
will come to an end. The great social democratic institutions which have
defended the weak against the strong - equality before the law,
representative government, democratic accountability and the sovereignty
of parliament - will be toppled. If, on the other hand, the corporate
attempt on public life is beaten back, then democracy may re-emerge the
stronger for its conquest. But this victory cannot be brokered by our
representatives. Democracy will survive only if the people in whose name
they govern rescue the state from its captivity."

This book is meticulously researched and scholarly, but despite the
seriousness of the subject matter, it is refreshingly well written. The
style of the prose is pleasantly evocative, light and engaging, even when
his message is at its most uncompromisingly radical.

1. Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare? Turning the Tide on the Brave
New World of Bad Science and Big Business, by Mae-Wan Ho, Gateway Gill&
Macmillan, 1998, 2nd ed., 1999. 2. Xenotransplantation: How bad science
and big business put the world at risk from viral pandemic. ISIS
Sustainable Science Audit #2, www.i-sis.org/xeno.shtml 3. "MRC SCIENCE
BUDGET ALLOCATION ENABLES FURTHER DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTH GENOMICS RESEARCH"
MRC Press Release MRC/69/000, 22 November www.mrc.ac.uk Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Director Institute of Science in Society The October Gallery 24 Old
Gloucester St. London WC1N 3AL m.w.ho@onetel.net
======
From: Rick Roush
Subject: latest from Ho

The following is apparently being widely circulated on anti-GM list
servers.

UK Top Research Centre Admits GM Failure: ISIS Press Release 26 Jan. 2001

Scientists in UK's top GM crop research institute, the John Innes Centre,
are finally admitting to the public that GM crops are no good. It amounts
to pronouncing the death sentence on GMOs. Mae- Wan Ho, Angela Ryan and
Joe Cummins report.

The John Innes Centre (JIC) is UK's leading plant research institute,
publicly funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
Council (BBSRC) to the tune of more than 310m pounds in grants every year.
It also houses the Sainsbury Laboratory and has research alliances with
Zeneca and Dupont. Not surprisingly, JIC has some of the most pro-GM
scientists who have been staunchly defending GM crops from critics like
ourselves, even as they have been pointing out the same problems in
scientific papers published in specialist journals. For years, we have
been drawing attention to the instability of GM constructs and GM lines.
This raises serious safety concerns over the possibility that the GM genes
could spread out of control to unrelated species, with the potential to
create new bacteria and viruses by recombination. More recently, we have
also argued that the promoter from cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV 35S
promoter), which is in practically all GM crops already commercialised or
undergoing field trials, will make GM constructs and GM lines extra
unstable, and hence greatly exacerbating the problems of horizontal gene
transfer and recombination.

Two items are noteworthy in the latest annual report from JIC, the first
reveals that GM barley lines became unstable and variable in later
generations of field trials. The researchers concluded, "The results show
that transgenic lines need to be examined over a number of generations
under field conditions to obtain the necessary data on transgenic
stability and agronomic performance", and also call for "detailed
molecular and genetic analysis" Both of these ISIS have demanded for years
along with other scientists.

The second item concerns the CaMV 35S promoter. When ISIS pointed out the
dangers of this promoter in the scientific journals, we were reviled and
attacked. Our fiercest critic was leader of a research group in the JIC
that had discovered that the promoter has a 'recombination hotspot', a
breaking point that makes it much more likely to recombine. Now, two years
later, the same group admits the need to avoid recombination hotspots such
as that in the CaMV 35S promoter as well as the 'origin of replication' in
the plasmid serving as vector for the GM construct, which is also often
integrated 'accidentally' into GM crops.

The authors of the second report also suggest the development of 'clean
DNA' technology as a possible solution to the problem. But that amounts to
pronouncing the death sentence for all GMOs. All GM crops currently on the
market or under review contain the CaMV 35S promoter and many, also the
plasmid backbone, including the origin of replication.

Quotes from JIC Annual Report 2000

On page 28, analysis of transgenic barley in a small-scale field trial
admits genetic instability
"Data from the 1998 trial showed that transgenic barley lines performed
as well as non-transformed control plants and controls from tissue
culture-derived parents for several agronomic traits, including yield. For
other traits, a significant difference was seen between transgenic and
control lines. The transgenic lines were significantly shorter and also
slightly later flowering [...]. When we examined the next generation of
the same transgenic line in the field during 1999, there was evidence that
the transgenic plants were more variable compared to the controls than
those in the 1998 field trial. This could be because somaclonal variation,
resulting from the tissue culture and transformation procedures, and was
more obvious in later generations. These results show that transgenic
lines need to be examined over a number of generations under field
conditions to obtain the necessary data on transgene stability and
agronomic performance. =46urther field trials [...] combined with detailed
molecular and genetic analysis will allow us to increase our understanding
of the transformation process so that we are better able to assess the
long term effects of genetic modification." (italics ours)

On page 29, admission that problems of GM and CaMV 35S promoter have been
understated in the past: "Analysis of junctions between genomic and
transforming DNA, and between individual plasmid molecules at integration
sites, demonstrates the predominance of microhomology-mediated
illegitimate recombination events involving regions with secondary
structure. One such region occurs in the CaMV 35S promoter, widely used to
drive transgene expression in plants. The plasmid backbone provides other
such regions, including the origin of replication [...]. The influence of
transgene rearrangements on expression and silencing has been understated
in the past, but our research may allow improved construct design to
discourage rearrangements and improve transgene-expression stability."
Contacts: Ms. Angela Ryan: 44-20-8441-6481; mobile: 44-07833-114525
e-mail: I-sis@dircon.co.uk Dr. Mae-Wan Ho: 44-20-7272-5636; e-mail:
m.w.ho@I-sis.org Prof. Joe Cummins: 1-519-681-5477; e-mail:
jcummins@julian.uwo.ca

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Subject: How ridiculous: Greenpeace says rice genome mapping "disturbing"

http://money.iwon.com/jsp/nw/nwdt_rt.jsp?cat=USMARKET&src=201§ion=news&n ews_id=reu-mn80073&date=20010129&alias=/alias/money/cm/nw

MANILA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Greenpeace expressed deep concern on Monday
over news of the successful mapping of the rice genome, saying access by
the poor to food sources could not be solved by technological innovations.

"It's a disturbing development," Von Hernandez, campaign director of
Greenpeace in South East Asia, told Reuters by phone."It does validate
fears of intensifying corporate control of genetic resources and later on
food production," Hernandez said. "One question that is to be asked is
'what motivated them?' On Friday, Syngenta International AG (SYNZn) and
Myriad Genetics Inc (MYGN) announced they had finished mapping the rice
genome, a breakthrough which Syngenta said will eventually lead to
healthier and more disease-resistant crops.The companies said the
breakthrough could bring revenues from new seeds in about five years.But
Hernandez said the development would not help the poor.

"It's not a shortage of food, which is a problem because there is food.
It's a problem of poor people having access that cannot be addressed by
technological breakthrough"Hernandez also said the decoding of the rice
gene by private firms could result in the development of new rice strains
in laboratories and destroy indigenous varieties in Asia, where rice is a
staple and a major crop.

Rice is eaten by almost three billion people or roughly half the world's
population. About 91 percent of the world's annual production of unmilled
rice is produced by Asian farmers.Syngenta said it was the first time a
genome has been mapped for a commercial crop. The rice genome is the
second largest sequenced, after the human genome, its spokesman said in
Zurich. A genome contains the basic information that makes up living
organisms encoded in chromosomes made up of double-stranded chains of DNA.

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From: Tom DeGregori
Subject: Two Named to New German Agency in Shuffle Over Beef Disease

See the following article in The New York Times. I encourage our members
to write to the NYTimes and voice concern over the extreme biased this
article.

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/11/world/11BERL.html The article implies
that mad cow disease results from modern agricultural practice for which
there is no evidence. Even worse, is the straight forward language of the
article in which it is simply assumed that a "back-to-nature approach" to
agriculture involves "smaller, more humane and organic forms of
agriculture" It also assumes that "organic" food is healthier and that the
agriculture that produces it is better for the environment. The tragic
fact is that the writer and whatever editor(s) approved it are probably
unaware of this, so deeply ingrained are these myths in the public mind
and in the media. We need to take every opportunity to challenge them.
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/01/11/world/11BERL.html
letters@nytimes.com.
-------

Two Named to New German Agency in Shuffle Over Beef Disease By ROGER COHEN
January 11, 2001

BERLIN, Jan. 10 ˜ Chancellor Gerhard Schröder created a new super-ministry
for food, agriculture and consumer protection today and handed it to the
environmentalist Greens, signaling a back-to-nature approach to combating
mad cow disease that is certain to alarm the powerful European farm lobby.

By naming Renate Künast, 45, a Berlin lawyer with no experience in farming
to head a ministry with such sweeping powers, Mr. Schröder has gambled
that any loss of support among farmers will be more than compensated by
support from ecologically conscious Germans alarmed by the discovery of
mad cow disease. "It is high time that we changed the course of
agriculture," Mr. Schröder said at a hastily called news conference. "We
want food safety through appropriate methods that are good for the
environment."

Despite Mr. Schröder's bold declarations, the fact is his government is in
some disarray after the resignation on Tuesday of his health and
agriculture ministers, who took the blame for the government's chaotic
response to the discovery in Germany of 10 cases of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy ˜ commonly known as mad cow disease. The reality is also
that west European farming is overwhelmingly dominated by large-scale,
industrialized farming, heavily subsidized by the European Union, and any
attempt to revert to smaller, more humane and organic forms of agriculture
would amount to an expensive revolution that most farmers would resist.

Mr. Schröder appeared to recognize the difficulties by warning that a
wholesale move to biologically friendly farming could not provide "enough
healthy food at affordable prices," but Ms. Künast, the co-leader of the
Greens, said she was determined to steer agriculture "back to nature." The
outbreak of mad cow disease has heightened already strong concerns among
European consumers about how "natural" or "organic" their food is. This
mood has set the continent on a collision course with the United States
over genetically modified corn and other foodstuffs, a conflict likely to
intensify.

"Europeans do not want genetically modified food ˜ period," said Foreign
Minister Joschka Fischer, of the Greens. "It does not matter what research
shows, they just do not want it and that has to be respected." No cases of
a deadly nervous condition in humans ˜ new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease ˜ that has been linked to mad cow disease have been discovered so
far in Germany. That has not prevented near- hysteria among consumers.
Beef sales have plunged, as elsewhere in Europe, and prices for poultry
and fish have risen. Mr. Schröder also named Ulla Schmidt, a teacher and
deputy leader of the Social Democratic parliamentary group, to become the
new health minister. Ms. Schmidt, 51, gained respect in Parliament last
year for her strong defense of the government's proposed pension reforms.

The disease among cattle is believed to result from the use of animal
products in feed. Germany long held that its cattle were not susceptible
because such forms of feed were not used. The recently discovered cases
are blamed on tainted grain. It is unclear how quickly Mr. Schröder's
government can recover from the damage done by its slow response to the
disease and by the departure of four ministers in the past three months.
What seems certain is that the next few months will be volatile after the
generally smooth sailing the chancellor enjoyed last year.
------ Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.. Professor of Economics, University of
Houston
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Are you sure the world is ready for you?:

Many bright ideas come to nothing because companies fail to predict the
public's response, say W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Financial Times, Jan 25, 2001
http://globalarchive.ft.com/globalarchive/articles.html?id=010125001283

By CHAN KIM and RENEE MAUBORGNE

Monsanto thought its fortune was made. It had created genetically modified
seeds - a completely new market. The new seeds offered considerable
benefits to farmers. There would be less risk of crops failing because of
disease or poor climate, a lower cost, less need to spend time applying
pesticides and a longer shelf-life for some crops. Arguably, the
environment would also benefit: with less pesticide, fewer toxic chemicals
would contaminate the countryside. And lastly, consumers might gain,
especially in developing countries. With a cleaner environment, more safe
water to drink and more vitamins from some GM crops, diets and well-being
would be enhanced.

So why did Monsanto get into such trouble with GM foods that to survive it
was, in effect, forced last year to merge with Pharmacia & Upjohn, the
drugs group?

The reason is that Monsanto did not understand how society would accept
its innovation. The company assumed that people would accept an idea that
created utility. But the more an innovation challenges the status quo, the
greater the chances that it will encounter obstacles. For Monsanto, the
main hurdle to widespread adoption of its product was the green movement's
criticism that the company was defying the laws of nature for the sake of
profit. Yet many of the facts produced to date suggest that GM seeds could
indeed improve the environment and people's health.

Hurdles to adoption come in three kinds. Employees can feel threatened by
the launch of a new business because it promises to transfer the company's
power and resources from them to others. Partners can feel disenfranchised
by a new business - as, for example, when traditional resellers are
sidestepped by a company's efforts to sell goods over the internet. And
the general public can reject a new idea, as it did with GM foods, because
it is poorly understood.

To avoid Monsanto's plight, innovative new businesses need to deal with
employees', partners' and society's concerns from the outset through fair
processes and education. To do this, they must engage people in a debate
on why the innovation is necessary, explain its merits and set
expectations of the innovation's ramifications and how the company will
tackle them. For Monsanto, this would have meant initiating a debate about
GM seeds and explaining how they would help eliminate pollution, disease
and famine. The company would also have led people to expect that, given
their continuing reservations about GM foods, it would give consumers a
choice between organic products and GM products by means of explicit
labelling.

Had Monsanto taken these steps it might have become the "Intel inside" for
the food of the future.

Companies that take the time to identify potential adoption hurdles will
find it well worth the effort. They can learn, before billions are spent,
whether potential resistance to the idea is well founded. They can find
out whether they have overlooked factors that invalidate the new business
idea. And they can learn, as in the case of GM foods, whether the public
lacks a clear understanding of the new idea's utility and work out how to
build an educational dialogue.

Over the past two days, we have discussed how to recognise whether you
have a winning new idea and how to assess its commercial worth. Our ideas
can be summarised in what we call the Winning Business Idea (WBI) index.
As the table shows, the index scores new business ideas in terms of the
factors we have identified as critical to success:

* Buyer utility economics: does the new idea offer buyers a leap in
utility?

* Strategic price economics: is the product or service priced so as to
capture the mass of buyers from the start?

* Cost economics: what is the target cost the company needs if it is to
charge its strategic price and earn a decent profit? Has the target cost
been met?

* Capability economics: have the company's shortcomings been offset by the
strengths of the right partners?

Together, cost and capability make up the company's business model.

* Adoption economics: have the obstacles to adoption been identified and
dealt with in advance by means of a fair process with employees, partners
and the general public?

The first two factors determine a new idea's potential to generate sales
and win over enthusiastic customers. They allow companies to earn their
brand's status, rather than buy it with extravagant advertising.
Bloomberg, Amazon.com, eBay, Enron and Wal-Mart became champions in their
customers' eyes thanks to exceptional utility and price, not exceptional
advertising. To build a strong profit engine, however, companies must also
pass the remaining two tests in the WBI index.

Our research suggests that many companies fail to subject their ideas to
these straightforward questions and analysis. As the table shows,
Motorola's Iridium satellite telephones and Philips' CD-i both failed one
or more of the WBI index tests. The common response to the dotcom crash is
to evoke the need for consolidation. That would allow loss-making
companies to cut their advertising budgets, their staffing and many of
their other overheads. But is that the real issue? We would argue that it
is more important to put right these businesses' underlying faults: the
lack of a strong value proposition, of a business model that will really
make money and of an understanding of adoption hurdles.

Webvan, once a rising star of the internet in the US, launched itself as
the home deliverer of groceries. Its target group was career-minded
individuals who had little time on their hands. But to receive deliveries,
people needed to be at home and Webvan could not promise exact delivery
times. The delivery costs were relatively high for a commodity such as
food, which is sold with razor-thin margins. So what does the future hold
for Webvan? Not much, according to the WBI index, unless Webvan rethinks
its business model and utility proposition.

Consolidation may buy time for dotcoms that score poorly on the WBI index
but it will not be the cause of any subsequent success. For that, they
need to recast themselves. If venture capitalists identify a company that
scores poorly on the index, we believe they should not invest in it. And
if you are thinking of joining an exciting company that is seemingly
committed to building the industry of tomorrow, you should use the index
to help you assess its prospects.

Otherwise, you may soon join the growing list of people let down by
dotcoms. Forty thousand and counting . . .

W. Chan Kim is the Boston Consulting Group Bruce D. Henderson chair
professor of international management at Insead in Fontainebleau, France.

Renee Mauborgne is distinguished fellow and affiliate professor of
strategy and management at Insead. She is also president of ITM Research.
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited